[Newsmaker] ‘Northern Limit Line’: Korean patriotism

By KH디지털2
  • Published : Jun 29, 2015 - 18:19
  • Updated : Jun 29, 2015 - 20:06

A scene from "Northern Limit Line" (Next Entertainment World)

“Northern Limit Line” is a film with a very clear purpose. It seeks to assuage the pain of bereaved families who lost their sons during a North Korean naval attack, reveal the systematic failures of the South Korean Navy that facilitated this loss, and draw attention to the society’s misplaced priorities. Every minute is dripping with this sense of mission and self-consciousness.

The film revolves around the story of three young soldiers -- Lieutenant Yoon Young-ha (Kim Mu-yeol), commanding officer of the ship; Staff Sergeant Han Sang-gook (Jin Goo), helmsman; and Corporal Park Dong-hyuk (Lee Hyun-woo), medic -- who fought aboard naval vessel PKM 357 when it came under an ambushed North Korean attack. Known as the second battle of Yeonpyeong, the conflict occurred near the Northern Limit Line, a disputed boundary between South and North Korea in the Yellow Sea, on June 29, 2002.

This happened to be the same day Korea went up against Turkey in the semifinals of the Korea-Japan World Cup, and the film consistently highlights the contrast between the fierce national support shown for the soccer team and the quiet, much less broadcast combat of the soldiers.

Director Kim Hak-soon’s vision was to pay homage to these men and recreate the events as accurately as possible. With insufficient funds, he started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money via public participation.

“Small and large sums donated by people across the country came together to make this movie,” Kim explained at a news conference for the film. “My hope is that viewers will be able to watch it and remember the six soldiers who sacrificed their lives while the rest of the country was celebrating.”

"Northern Limit Line" (Next Entertainment World)

“Northern Limit Line” stirs emotion step by step, first by depicting the soldiers’ everyday joys and struggles, then exposing them to unexpected warfare. The result is not unsuccessful, and the sacrifice of a country’s hardworking young men does not fail to provide a moving story. The characters are three-dimensional and engaging, with reasonable emotional pull. Kim delivers a notable performance as the reserved but warm-hearted leader, and the young Lee excels as the good, honest Korean son and soldier.

Despite a direction that is less than nuanced, the director’s earnestness and wish to preserve the youth and courage of the soldiers shine through, largely due to the cast’s skillful acting and a realistic backdrop, courtesy of the South Korean Navy.

The film, from the beginning, clearly delineates its goals: To appease the grief of the bereaved families and remember their sons as heroes, to inform the public on the Navy’s systematic shortcomings and how they were improved upon after the battle, and to draw attention to the fact that our society is swept away too easily by less important issues. By its own standards, then, the film is a success.

Otherwise, at its best, “Northern Limit Line” is a window into the current sense of patriotism in South Korea, torn between the frenzy of the rapidly evolving economy and the distant yet omnipresent awareness that it is, despite the people’s well-off everyday lives, a country in the midst of war.

“Northern Limit Line” opened in local theaters on June 24.

By Rumy Doo (bigbird@heraldcorp.com)